Economic Sustainability of Organic Farms
Where the costs are low, one of the main benefits of switching to organic farming methods is economic sustainability. A farmer with high costs can suffer greatly if he has a bad year due to depressed prices, recession or simply a failed crop. He may require loans in order to purchase necessary inputs at the start of the following season, increasing his costs still further in interest on the loan. A farmer with low costs is less vulnerable to such fluctuations in fortune - even if making the switch may affect overall yield or require that he reduce the size of his operation.
Such a situation has occurred in France, particularly among dairy farmers. A 2001 comparison of organic and conventional dairy production found that a farmer spends on average $200 less per year for each cow in an organic farm, and receive slightly more for the milk as well. Since the start of the global recession in 2008, farmers in France had been producing milk at double what they could sell it at. Switching to organic farming methods has helped many farmers to reduce their costs and help them out of crisis.
Since the turn of the millennium, France has seen a steady increase in the number of organic farmers at around 2.5% each year. In 2008-2009 the figures grew by 20%. The economic hardship has been the driving force behind the switch, while the French government has encouraged it with a series of tax incentives, in the name of promoting agricultural sustainability.
Whether organic versus non-organic farming is worthwhile appears to depend on the individual situation. In some cases, there is a clear advantage for organic farming methods – reduced finance, transportation and chemical input costs. In others, the cons can outweigh the pros, with increased labor required for sowing, harvesting, pest control and other tasks, making organic produce far more expensive.